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Peter’s Take: Is the New Ballston Fiscally Sustainable?

Peter RousselotPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In an article last week, ARLnow.com highlighted comments by the CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District about the NSF departure. Tina Leone struck a note of reassurance:

Leone said the neighborhood is going to be just fine without a federal tenant [NSF] and its more than 2,000 employees, even though she said it will add about 1 percent to Arlington’s office vacancy rate … Leone said the reason for her optimism lies in the major development projects underway…

Ms. Leone is doing her job to promote Ballston. But from a long-term fiscal perspective, the “major development projects underway” do not justify her optimism.

New Ballston development projects are likely to be a fiscal net negative

As one commenter on last week’s Ballston story aptly summarized:

All of the new buildings in Ballston are residential or educational. The developers of approved (but unbuilt) commercial buildings in Ballston (including one in Liberty Center) are in the process of or have received approval of site plan amendments that permit them to construct residential buildings on their sites.

The long-term fiscal impact of each of these new, large Ballston residential buildings is likely to be a net negative for Arlington’s budget. The total costs of new school seats, parks, and all other public infrastructure required to serve the added residential population in each building are likely to exceed substantially the new tax revenues that each project and its new residents will generate.

Examples of studies elsewhere that document this likely net-negative outcome include:

  • Counting the Costs of Growth (Albemarle County/Charlottesville)
  • The Fiscal and Economic Impacts of Stafford County’s Proposed 2008 and 2010 Comprehensive Plans
  • A Meta-Analysis of Cost of Community Service Studies (“We find clear support for the common perception that residential land uses tend to have ratios greater than one, while commercial/industrial and agricultural/open-space land uses tend to have ratios less than one.”)

Unlike its neighbors, Arlington fails to prepare short-term and long-term fiscal impact analyses of projects like those approved for Ballston

Neighboring jurisdictions like Fairfax and Loudoun counties use some form of project-specific fiscal impact assessments as part of their review processes. Even though these jurisdictions use a proffer system rather than a special exception/site-plan system, the benefits to policy-makers and the public of having project-specific fiscal impact assessments are common to all of us.

Falls Church City has utilized fiscal impact analyses for years, and has a detailed description of its model.

Caveats: Other jurisdictions’ models often don’t include capital costs or assess environmental impacts or quantify a value for natural space. A new branch of economics — environmental economics — provides new models that help to establish a monetary value for open space and the natural infrastructure.

Arlington should adopt project-specific fiscal impact statements

The Community Facilities Study Group’s (CFSG) Final Report  contained this Recommendation No. 12:

Add an economic and fiscal impact section to private development (special exception/site plan and Form Based Code) project staff reports to provide information on the costs (e.g. the projected service demands and other costs to the community) and benefits (e.g. the taxes and other economic benefits) likely to be generated by a proposed project.

Why hasn’t Arlington County adopted CFSG Recommendation No. 12?

Conclusion

Both short-term and long-term planning must include a fiscal component.

Arlington should adopt fiscal planning tools like those long-since used by its neighbors.

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

Spend the first Sunday of March tasting a great wine selection at Arrowine’s Super Sunday Tasting!

Workers lowered signage today (Friday) from the now-former Giant supermarket in the Lyon Village Shopping Center. Several passersby watched with interest as the team unscrewed the letters G-I-A-N-T from the…

New properties just listed in Arlington include a 3 BD/3 BA home with an expanded kitchen, fireplace and two lower levels.

March General Membership Meeting

NAACP Arlington Branch is celebrating Women’s History Month with a virtual public safety and Virginia legislative update. Our speakers are Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Delegate Adele McClure.

Guest Speakers

Adele McClure
Virginia House of Delegates, 2nd District in Arlington

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Submit your own Announcement here.

Early Years Preschool is a small non-profit preschool and parents day out program that has served local families since 1992. Early Years Preschool is located in the Cherrydale neighborhood at 3701 Lorcom Lane.

Early Years Preschool offers part-time programs for young children between 12 months – 5 years old. Early Years also offers a 6 week summer program! The school day is 9:30-2:30, with the option of morning extended day offered at 9am. Families have the flexibility of registering for 1-3 days/week in their parent’s day out program (12 months- 2 year olds) and 2-5 days/week for their preschool program (3-5 year olds).

Early Years’ teachers provide a nurturing environment that promotes the development of a child’s emotional, social, cognitive, and physical skills. Creative and stimulating theme-based activities allow each child to develop and learn at his or her own pace through exploration and play.

Learn more about Early Years Preschool by contacting the admissions team at [email protected] or by visiting their website at http://www.earlyyearspreschool.org

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Submit your own Announcement here.

Alternative Thursdays

Dedicated to the notion that fans of the Smiths and Morrissey want to hear some of the greatest music ever written in a true live concert setting, Caligula Blushed delivers an authentic rendition of Smiths/Morrissey songs, with each performance based

Renegade Mode

Having worked with the likes of Gary Numan, DJ Neidermeyer lends authenticity a go-go. Enough to satisfy even the purists.

The Renegade boasts all of the virtues of Arlington’s premier music venues while providing bar bites that rival most restaurants

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